Why I believe in Mr. Claus

I think as we approach the Birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, along with serendipitously yours truly, I think it only fitting to now have a truly serious and profound discussion with you, my dear reader.

I feel after over one year of trying to tell you (in the most intimate details) the why, the how and the what of my life and it’s effect on my pictures. It is now time to take one step further downtown into the protected recess of my cerebrum to discuss my need for my belief in Santa Claus.

This is not just a yearly yearning for Old Man Claus to drop down the chimney and bestow my family with gifts. Unfortunately, it is way beyond this. In order to do justice to my explanation of why Santa exists, I must retreat back, further back, putting a 50mm lens on my Hasselblad to be able to stand way back and look at the entire opus of my work.

With this overview in mind, I began to ascertain certain truths about me,  my perspective on life, my subjects, my locations, my styling, my relationships, etc. but if you look even closer you begin to notice that this Christmas Eve baby has a peculiar and to many, a very outdated weltanschauung.

For those of you not versed in theological discourse, you may want to translate weltanschauung into a kind of worldview. My particular view on the world underlies everything I do photographically. Whether I am photographing a farmer in tears, or a CEO joyful for the enormous Christmas bonus he is to receive shortly. It is seen in models I choose, in the landscapes, and in the locations. It is omnipresent in my work. This little unseen element, my voice, comes across in every picture I make.

Some of you are voiceless, not because you don’t have one, but you haven’t found it yet or you are too frightened to let it speak but that is for another workshop.

So through the years, both academically and theologically, and with an enormous amount of introspection, I began to study the nature of man, but not just any man, this man, myself, me. Slowly over time I have discovered what this little voice has been saying throughout my photographic history. First, despite my outward appearance that the glass may appear only half full, this voice exposed quite the opposite. My photographs are a world of optimism and happiness. There is often whimsy and joy in the pictures. Secondly, and perhaps most deeply and most importantly, although I am most fundamentally embedded in the soil, my pictures speak often of a life that is just around the corner, just barely out of reach. They are plausible but it requires extra effort to be there. I guess that is why they are often referred to as aspirational. This is very important.

This is like confronting a void, and believing there is something on the other side. It is wondering at the possibilities (those that seem impossible or outside of human knowledge or perception). My photographs begin the process of believing that goodness is possible. It is a big yes to life and wonder.

In all the years of study I personally have never been able to cross over the many boundaries that can separate us from our beliefs. I am still on one side of the ledge looking across unable to make that leap. My pictures, however, definitely have made the jump. In the world that my pictures create, Santa is possible, even probable. My pictures, like in the movies of the 40s, 50s, and 60s where the good guys usually win, where happiness and beauty prevail, where life despite the hardness can have moments of great joy, exist. I do not think this is fantasy or naivety or even innocence. I think this is possibility that can be achieved, if we believe.

My pictures could be about a Christmas where something miraculous happened, and the world could possibly change, if little old me, who is stuck in my boots could just get out and join his own pictures.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

Rodney Smith